BY ANINDITA DAS
Photos by Anis Ul Haque
Bruce Bucknell, the British High Commissioner in Kolkata visited Assam on October 27, 2016, prior to the India-UK Tech Summit to be held in November, which will be opened by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Theresa May. His visit was intended to interact with eminent industry and business people from the state to know how the UK can best partner with India to increase innovation in business areas like Smart Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Healthcare, Education and Skills.
He is also eager to improve understanding of market needs, explore opportunities for collaboration in technology development, as well as identify trade and investment opportunities in both UK and India.
The event was moderated by M I Barbaruah, member of CII, Assam State Council and Director of Vet Helpline India Private Limited. He said that the association of UK and Assam has its roots in history and now in terms of Oil they are closely related. The relationship further looks forward for some transformational changes in rural technology, research and capacity building, skill development, animal health along with many others.
Addressing the gathering of prominent personalities from education, health, and business sector form the state, Bucknell said “I want to talk about the future direction of my country, and how that might be of interest to you here in Assam and NE India”. He also expressed his bewilderment over the fact that Britain is not the largest importer of Indian tea despite of being the country with the highest consumption of tea per head and said that he would ask his fellow Britons that Assam has some of the best quality tea in the world and they should drink high quality leaf tea instead of blended teas.
Regarding the region, he said that the plans to improve connectivity of Northeast to the border countries and building more infrastructures can bring about a massive change in the emerging market. “Britain is open for business, committed to peace and security, and a leading supporter of the international rules-based system. Brexit is a change and it is a challenge for us. But we’ve undergone major economic changes before. For India I think it is an opportunity. We will be looking to widen our global scope”, he further stated.
Various issues were raised during the interactive session right from the problem of erosion to the proposal of having a UK Visa Centre in Guwahati and the prospect of active tourism came up in the interactive session. Former dean and director of AIIMS R.C Deka said that in terms of health the services and expertise are not reaching the people. He also expressed his concern over the fact that the enrolment in health education is very low in the country and from this collaboration he expects a positive outcome in this regard. Professor Chandan Mahanta, IIT Guwahati said “In Assam we have a lot of challenges thrown upon by landscape, specifically by the problem of sedimentation in river Brahmaputra, which leads to erosion. A lot of research is going on in this area and it would be great if British Council can provide fellowship for extensive research.”
Bucknell expressed his delight to know about the different scope in the developmental process of the state in which UK can be instrumental while investing and thus he hopes the Indo-UK Tech summit would be a benchmark in the further collaboration of the two countries.